6. The Islanders February In Review, Looking Ahead to March
Considering that by the time you’re reading this it’ll already be March 1, we might as well close out this special double-length takeaway with a review of February, and a preview of March.
February was a bit of a weird month, but if the Islanders secure a playoff berth with a top-four spot in the division, I think this’ll be the month that we look back on as the one that got them moving in the right direction.
Remember back to February 1. The Islanders had just lost their fifth straight game, an overtime heartbreaker in Philadelphia which could’ve very easily been Ilya Sorokin’s first NHL win, but wasn’t. Sorokin made some pretty incredible cross-crease saves in that game, but again, the Islanders fell short, and the attitude from fans about the team was pretty low.
Then New York State got hit by a Nor’easter, canceling the first two Islanders games of the month, at home vs. the Buffalo Sabres. But, that week of practice turned out to be kind of a big deal. The Islanders rattled off six consecutive games with at least one point, and suddenly opinion turned. After a couple more regulation losses to the Penguins, the sky was again falling.
But, never fear, the Islanders beat Buffalo again, and then the Boston Bruins, their third win over them in as many games this season, and their second of the month of February. Leading everyone to question whether Boston was any good anymore after they went on to lose to the Rangers the next night. (Hint: I think Boston’s still good.)
Take all that and tack it on to these last two games, and you have the month of February in review. The Islanders finished the month with a very good 8-2-2 record, all four losses came against Pittsburgh, but thankfully the Blue and Orange won’t see them again until the final week of March.
The Isles are in third place in the MassMutual East Division, with a record of 11-6-4.
As far as the advanced stats go, things are looking pretty good there too. The Islanders rank fifth overall in the NHL in xGF% at 5v5 when adjusted for score and venue. In other words, they’re very good at 5v5 when it comes to shooting from dangerous areas, and they limited opponents’ shooting opportunities from those same dangerous areas. That’s a good recipe for success.
Looking ahead to March, as I said before, the Islanders have an incredibly busy schedule. They won’t get consecutive days off at all in the month.
As far as opponents go, the Islanders will play the Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils seven times in their first eight games, with that outlier being a March 9 home game vs. Boston.
The Isles should look to pick up as many points as possible vs. Buffalo and New Jersey, because this is the soft spot in their schedule, the rest of the month they’ll face Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Boston, and Washington. So pick up points anywhere you can should be the message for the first couple weeks of March, as the schedule does harden down the stretch.
Notably, the Islanders won’t face the Rangers at all in March. They won’t meet them again until April 9 and 11.
Well, I think that’ll be it for this special double-length takeaways. This thing is way too long, but if you’ve read all the way to this point, then thanks! I hope the readers are enjoying reading these takeaways posts as much as I enjoy writing them. I look forward to chatting more about Islanders hockey in the month of March with you all, see ya then.